Supporters give Team SA a festive send-off

Friday, July 20, 2012
By: 
Nthambeleni Gabara

When Team SA descended on the red carpet at OR Tambo International Airport from their camp at Pretoria's High Performance Centre, they were greeted by a sea of waving flags and the crowd singing "shosholoza".

The members of Team SA were surprised by the dancing and ululation of the crowd, led by the country's craziest football loving supporters -- Mukwevho, Machaka and sis Joy Chauke.

The men's hockey team captain, Austin Smith, said: "As the men's hockey team, we are not used to this type of support from South Africans and we believe that this massive support we received today will push us to make this country proud."

Banyana skipper Amanda Dlamini said they were well-prepared to frustrate their opponents with their local dribbling skills.

"We will be participating in the Olympic Games for the first time as South Africa's national women's team, but we are ready to frustrate our opponents with all the tsamayas and shibobos," she said.

The national women's hockey team captain, Marsha Marescia, said: "We are ready to fly the South African flag high at the Olympic Games."

Representing the men's lightweight rowing team - which includes Matthew Brittain, Lawrence Ndlovu and James Thompson - John Smith said: "The team spirit is high, clearly indicating that we are all ready and we believe that with South Africa behind us, nothing can stop us from doing it for our country."

South African Sport Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) President Gideon Sam, who has already set a target of 12 medals for Team SA, said: "You are not going to London to fill up numbers, but to show the world that as South Africans, you are winners. You can see that the country is behind you, now go and make this rainbow nation proud.

"There is nothing we want from you except the 12 or more medals."

His sentiments were echoed by National Press Club Chairperson Yusuf Abramjee, Machaka and the spokesperson of the South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco), Dumisani Mtshalane.

Abramjee said: "We don't expect you to come back home with less than 12 medals and if you come with more, we will definitely give you a warm welcome when you land at this airport."

Machaka said the athletes should understand that the country was fully behind them. "We want them to bring home more medals - that would be a very special present to former President Nelson Mandela, who turned 94 on Wednesday. We don't need less than 12 medals."

Mtshalane said: "As Sanco, we are also behind the team; we wish them well, so they must go and do their best to make all of us happy and proud as a winning nation by getting 12 or more medals."

Well-known Bafana Bafana and Orlando Pirates supporter Joy Chauke said: "We are expecting this team to represent us with pride, especially Banyana Banyana and the women's hockey team. We will be wearing our green and yellow to show our loyal support to this team."

SASCOC Chef de Mission Patience Shikwambana said: "I have explained to the team that there is no excuse - we need to bring home more medals."

Team SA later in the evening boarded a locally branded airbus to make their way to London, where the 2012 London Olympics are scheduled to take place from 27 July to 12 August.